Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Critical Thinking: Do We Get The Kind Of Political Leadership We Deserve?

In many ways, I suspect that we get exactly the kind of political representation that we deserve. A population that is either largely disengaged from the political process or lacking in fundamental critical thinking skills invites our elected representatives to treat us with disdain, safe in the knowledge that few will rouse themselves to object. The effects of this kind of passivity and lazy thinking are most evident when politicos are campaigning for our vote, making outrageous promises and guarantees that show how little they really think of us.

Take, for example, Rob Ford's successful bid to become the mayor of Toronto, based almost exclusively on the promise to “end the gravy train” that was, according to the mythology advanced by the true believers, sapping the Big Smoke of its monetary resources and bleeding the taxpayers dry. So, in a mass Pavlovian response, the people elected the big fellow, only to now learn that the putative rich diet of the metaphorical locomotive never existed.

In an excellent piece by Roy James in today's Star entitled Rob Ford's gravy train running on fumes, we learn that, after spending $350,000 on a consultant telling them things they already knew, the City spends most of its money on core services, nary a gravy boat in site (forgive me for mixing my metaphors):

As on many other files, the civic leader was missing in action. So, too, was the anticipated list of huge savings to be found in bloated departments. And the hit list of waste and gravy.

It turns out that if Ford is going to find “savings” from the city’s water, garbage and transportation departments he will have to convince city council to keep the blue box out of apartments and condos, reduce snow clearing, cut the grass and sweep the streets less often, and end fluoridation of Toronto’s drinking water — all politically explosive issues.

For that — and a list of nickel-and-dime, nip-and-tuck manoeuvres — Toronto could potentially, possibly, save up to $10 million to $15 million in departments that spend $1 billion, one-third of which comes from taxes.

City councillors didn’t need to pay a consultant $350,000 to tell them where to find those “savings.” Council considers them every year — and often recoils from implementing them.

The mayor has fed the general expectation that the consultants from KPMG would use their fresh eyes to uncover bushels of low-hanging fruit that nobody had identified before — the “gravy.”

They haven’t.

Can this reality actually come as a surprise to the voting public? I would like to say no, but sadly, for the aforementioned reasons, the answer has to be yes.

I hope you will take a few moments to read the entire article.

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